HELENA WEST HELENA (KTHV) -- They are two men on a mission and instead of climbing the corporate ladder in the big city, they are choosing rural Arkansas.
And they did it with hopes of helping businesses succeed and entrepreneurs take off in the Arkansas Delta. THV's Max Seigle recently had a chance to visit the duo and the people they serve and shares their story in this THV Extra.
The two men that we're talking about here are Will Staley and Terrance Clark. Back in 2009, they packed their bags in Brooklyn, New York, where the close friends went to graduate school at the Pratt Institute, and made their journey to an old storefront in Helena-West Helena. (THV Photo Gallery)
It's not your traditional business school class in a downtown storefront in Helena-West Helena. But for these budding entrepreneurs in the Delta community, it's "step one" of realizing a dream.
"The information here, you can't put a price on it," Patrick Allen said.
Patrick Allen, one of the students in this 10-week course, wants to open a club or café. And he hopes for better luck after a previous attempt failed.
"So I kind of learned it the hard way, so now I'm trying to go about it, getting information I need first of all and then take it step by step," Allen said.
They're learning the ropes of a business plan for three hours every Thursday night at Thrive, a non-profit design firm working to boost economic development in Rural America. Terrance Clark is part of the two-man team behind Thrive and runs these classes.
"The way the class works, it's more of like a survey of all the concepts and all the things you need to put into a business plan and after that we have more hand-holding if you will, I'll start working with them one-on-one to develop a 48-month cash flow, draft over the business plans," Clark said.
It's a personal helping hand that is part of Thrive's overall mission. And we found more of it with the company's other half: Will Staley meeting with Father Travis Frank at the Phillips County Museum. When we came by for this story, they were tackling logo development that is tracked for progress down the road.
"We actually become an actual partner in that measurement process; so six months down the line we measure how that rack card, how that brochure did and if it didn't work then we tweak it," Staley said.
They offer this service at below market rates, making it more attainable for clients like the museum.
"It's huge because we live on a shoe-string here on the museum, and on top of that it's part of the whole of our community of helping each other along the way," Father Travis Frank said.
It's a community thread that linked up to thrive in November of 2009 when Clark and Staley opened shop on Cherry Street.
"We actually moved down here six months earlier than we thought we would because people that we had been working with kept saying, this is the time, we need you here now," Staley said.
Another opportunity that Thrive created is the Helena Second Saturdays program, kicked off last year. It's an arts walk and more downtown from April through September.
"You can see Cherry Street lined with musicians and artists, there are activities for kids, all the merchants are open, it's a coordinated downtown effort to boost the tourism draw for Helena," Staley said.
Staley says they averaged 400 visitors each Saturday last year, even raised the GDP downtown by 150 percent. They are helping the community, with more work to come.
"This is our 3,500 square-foot incubator space for entrepreneurs and people working with us through Helena Entrepreneur Center," says Clark, showing us around this future space.
Thrive hopes to open that with computers, business development software and office space by the fall. And all in a place they're happy to call home and "thrive."
"I would be a typesetter at a creative shop in Brooklyn, where here I have the keys to the door and our clients meet with us, it is the most rewarding work I've ever done," Clark said.
"We definitely feel like we're going to stay here, Thrive is not leaving anytime soon and if Thrive were to ever leave, it would be because there is no need for us anymore," Staley said.
Since opening up in late 2009, Thrive has built a client roster of almost a hundred businesses and entrepreneurs. And we should point out that several of their efforts include community partners, from the Phillips County Chamber of Commerce to the University Of Arkansas Phillips County Community College.
Thrive is providing lots of help to the community (THV Photo Gallery), but they also have to maintain their day-to-day operations, so they welcome donations from anyone with a heart for the Delta. Just click on the Thrive website link above to help out. Their phone number is (870) 338-3300.